Ah, youth. Remember how easy it was to fall asleep when you were a kid? All my parents had to do was put me in the back seat of the car and I'd be 40 winks in before we got to my grandmother's house -- and she lived in the same neighborhood.
It's no secret that as we get older, it can take longer to fall asleep. Whether the cause is stress, caffeine, or hormones, insomnia is no fun. And if the number of TV commercials for various prescription sleep drugs is any indication, we're a nation of insomniacs. By now, we are aware of the health warnings and the risk of dependency that come with these medications.
When occasional insomnia hits, I get out of bed, brew a cup of chamomile tea and take a 2mg melatonin, a supplement that mimics the hormone produced by the brain to help control sleep and awake cycles. I've been lucky with this combo, but while researching melatonin supplements, I found that they could interact with common prescription pharmaceuticals such as birth-control pills. So, just in case melatonin becomes a health issue for me, I asked around to find some alternate remedies.
Once you get past its pungent odor (think nasty gym socks and multiply that by 10), valerian root can be a helpful herbal sleep aid. My friend George uses a combination of valerian and meditation to help fall asleep. "When I meditate regularly, I rarely have insomnia because my mind is calm and I never get those obsessive thoughts that keep me awake late at night," he says.
The much-more-pleasant scent of lavender does the trick for Anne. Lavender essential oil can be mixed with water and sprayed around the room and on linens.
Several of my friends said they read until their eyes get heavy -- a practice that often works for me, too. But my friend Melissa does the opposite to try to psych herself out: "Instead of closing my eyes and wishing I could sleep, I try very hard to keep them open. It seems to work!"
Mary, a working mother of two, says regular exercise and a structured schedule help her fall asleep (Wow -- how does she do it?!).
A warm bath and stretching work for Tom, who gave up his nighttime workouts because he felt they were amping him up too much before bedtime. "I hit the gym in the morning now because I need that adrenaline rush before I start the day -- not when I end it," he says.
Let's not forget caffeine as a culprit. I've learned to cut myself off from all caffeinated products at noon -- a switch from the days when I could drink diet colas all night.
Many of my friends rely on the power of positive thinking to put them to sleep. My friend Sherrie says she thinks only good thoughts when she gets into bed.
What remedies do you have for getting a good night's sleep?